BEIJING (VN) — The Tour of Beijing needs to change to continue, according to cycling’s world governing body, the UCI. After its third edition concluded Tuesday in China’s capital with a victory for Beñat Intxausti (Movistar), the organization’s top brass are planning meetings to evaluate the race.
The current contract expires with next year’s edition. Director Alain Rumpf, head of the UCI’s Global Cycling Promotion wing, said that he would talk with UCI president Brian Cookson to find solutions to grow the race’s roots and to continue beyond 2014.
Cookson visited the race for two days. He said that he wants it to continue, but expressed some doubt about its current scope, adding that organizers cannot simply “parachute in with a European pro model” for a stage race.
Rumpf welcomed “the push” from Cookson, who only took over as president from Pat McQuaid last month.
“After two days, [Cookson] had a good understanding where we are and what we want to do,” Rumpf said Tuesday morning ahead of the final stage in Beijing. “He’s been positive. He said he wants to see the race continue. He says, and I agree, that this race has to benefit the whole of China. He wants to see more cooperation with the Chinese cycling association, more benefits for all levels of cycling. He’s right. We’ve tried to do it since we’ve been here. It takes time. I’m glad that he’s there. He’s pushing us.”
The stage race, this year five days, undertook its third edition on shaky ground. McQuaid initiated Global Cycling Promotion in 2009 as a promotional arm to bring major races — and their economic benefits — to non-traditional cycling destinations. Rumpf’s team also tried to organize the Tour of Hangzhou (China) in 2012 and 2013, but called it off each time. Currently, the only other road race the body organizes is the world championships.
While campaigning for president, Cookson expressed doubts about the governing body also acting as a race promoter.
“The operations and status of the UCI’s GCP unit are unclear even to those within the UCI,” Cookson wrote in his manifesto released in June. “Its focus should shift to elevating existing and new races around the world. This can be done by providing development capital and expertise.”
Rumpf, who managed the ProTour series, predecessor to the WorldTour, said the Tour of Beijing is heading in the right direction, but added that the organization needs to do more.
“Every year it’s improving. It’s improving on the Chinese side because the organization committee has more experience,” Rumpf said. “Every year we see more fans on the road, more cyclists, more media. The pre-race press conference was packed with local journalists who asked thoughtful questions.”
He indicated that tweaks can, and will, be made after he meets with Cookson this off-season. As for Hangzhou and new WorldTour races, he essentially paraphrased from Cookson’s manifesto and said not to hold one’s breath.
“GCP is an arm of the UCI to help with its strategy,” Rumpf said. “It’s not just about the WorldTour; it’s also at the continental level [that we need to create races]. We’d like to work with cities and countries in order to start races on a lower level and to work their long-term growth. There is big potential there.”